We Need to Talk About ‘Bruno’: Bruce Willis’ Greatest Movies of All Time

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Bruce Willis fans had a hell of a week

First, there was the announcement of the winner of the Golden Raspberry Award category specially created for the actor after an incredibly prolific 12 months of generally bad movies (I had no problem with cosmic sin taking away the title), then there was the terrible news this morning that the beloved 67-year-old was retiring after being diagnosed with aphasia

While, as you’d expect, there are still plenty of his films yet to be released (imdb lists eight titles either completed or in post-production), there are also over 100 feature films touting the man whose career-making turn on the TV Illegal work has led to a truly eclectic – and somewhat eccentric – film career available to already watch. Yes, there have been high profile disasters – The bonfire of vanities, Hudson’s Falcon, night color – flops that nearly destroyed other people’s studios and careers, but there were also some truly indelible stories with the man born Walter Bruce Willis at their heart.

To celebrate the on-screen life of the so-called “Bruno” (the name of his rock star alter ego), Things to watch put together this list of eight great Bruce Willis movies (and where you can watch them right now).

Sin City, Die Hard and The Fifth Element are among the greatest films of Bruce Willis' 35-year film career.

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Sin City, Die Hard and The Fifth Element are among the greatest films of Bruce Willis’ 35-year film career.

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Bruce Willis played John McClane in five Die Hard films.

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Bruce Willis played John McClane in five Die Hard movies.

Die Hard (1988, Disney+)

One of the seminal action films of the 1980s, this adaptation of Roderick Thorp’s 1979 novel, Nothing lasts eternallyproved that Willis wasn’t just a TV one-trick pony and introduced the world to the delights of Alan Rickman.

His detective John McClane (a role he would reprise in four more installments), was the inventive, blue-collar, cynical action hero for every movie buff of a generation.

Despite much debate, it’s also one of the best Christmas movies of all time.

The Fifth Element saw Bruce Willis wearing costumes designed by Jean-Paul Gaultier.

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The Fifth Element saw Bruce Willis wearing costumes designed by Jean-Paul Gaultier.

The Fifth Element (iTunes, AroVision, Academy OnDemand, Roxy OnDemand, Deluxe At Home)

Twenty-five years old this year, Luc Besson’s space opera riot remains a film that is hard to forget.

Alongside a light-hearted Milla Jovovich and a delightfully zany Gary Oldman, Willis sports Jean-Paul Gaultier while his taxi driver Korben Dallas attempts to help save the universe.

Lurid, luxurious, sometimes just fun to laugh out loud.

Bruce Willis and Marlon Wayans have joined forces for The Last Boy Scout.

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Bruce Willis and Marlon Wayans have joined forces for The Last Boy Scout.

The Last Boy Scout (1991, Netflix, Neon)

Willis has teamed up with African-American comedian Damon Wayans for this hilarious crime comedy co-written by lethal weapon scribe Shane Black and directed by Superior gunit’s Tony Scott.

A mix of pithy one-liners and high-octane pyrotechnics, this sees Willis’ cynical private eye (“Yeah, I believe in love, I believe in cancer too,” is his stated philosophy) teaming up to Wayans’ ex-footballer in an attempt to solve the murder of the latter’s girlfriend – a crime that leads to a corrupt politician and a crooked businessman.

Bruce Willis takes Joseph Gordon-Levitt hostage in Looper.

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Bruce Willis takes Joseph Gordon-Levitt hostage in Looper.

Looper (Amazon Prime Video)

Willis is a craggy, grumpy yet compelling presence that hovers over Rian Johnson’s slow, surprise-filled, mind-bending tale.

While Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the heart of this film, Willis is the soul of a film that owes so much to Roman Polanski’s seminal 1970s crime drama. Chinese district, like the classic time travel movies that came before it.

Bruce WIllis' Hartigan only has eyes for Jessica Alba's Nancy Callahan.

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Bruce WIllis’ Hartigan only has eyes for Jessica Alba’s Nancy Callahan.

Sin City (Google Play, iTunes, YouTube)

Although Robert Rodriguez’s atmospheric and surprisingly realized adaptation of Frank Miller’s seminal graphic novel features an ensemble to die for (everyone from Mickey Rourke to Clive Owen, Jessica Alba, Benicio Del Toro and Rosario Dawson), the Willis’ aging policeman was remarkable.

Featured in two of the six vignettes, his Hartigan may be fatalistic, but he’s a rare man of morality in the rotten town of Basin City and Willis delivers a performance that will break your heart.

Hayley Joel Osment and Bruce Willis share a tender moment in The Sixth Sense.

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Hayley Joel Osment and Bruce Willis share a tender moment in The Sixth Sense.

The Sixth Sense (1999, Disney+)

Willis delivers one of his most nuanced performances as child psychologist Malcolm Crowe, while Toni Collette and Olivia Williams are the unsung supporting stars in a film that heralded the arrival of a phenomenon known as by M.Night Shyamalan.

Of course, it’s then-unknown child actor Haley Joel Osment who really steals the show as troubled young Cole Sear, the boy who claims to see “dead people… walking around like regular people.” The audience had no idea what awaited them.

In 12 Monkeys, Bruce Willis is soberly brilliant as the most puzzled Cole opposite a rather unhinged Brad Pitt.

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In 12 Monkeys, Bruce Willis is soberly brilliant as the most perplexing Cole, opposite a rather unhinged Brad Pitt.

12 monkeys (iTunes, YouTube, Google Play, Academy OnDemand, AroVision)

Visuals have always been Terry Gilliam’s strength, but this is the film where he married them to an engaging and cohesive time-travel plot.

Inspired by Chris Marker’s seminal 1962 short film The PierGilliam pulled in terrific performances from an eclectic cast that included Willis, Madeleine Stowe and Brad Pitt, and dared to deliver a sweet but downbeat ending.

Willis is soberly brilliant as the most puzzled Cole, a man desperate to learn more about a virus that wiped out five billion people in 1996-97, but seems to be sealing its own fate at the same time.

Bruce Willis reprized his Unbreakable persona in Glass in 2019.

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Bruce Willis reprized his Unbreakable persona in Glass in 2019.

Unbreakable (2000, Disney+)

Willis football stadium security guard David Dunn is the sole survivor of a horrific crash between cars and a passenger train. As he tries to figure out how he alone escaped without a scratch, mysterious stranger Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) comes up with an alternate theory.

A different take on a comic book movie, Shyamalan created a real sense of space and place and kept audiences riveted with its slow, twisting narrative that makes full use of Willis’ character.

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